POLEY (POOLEY), Sir William (1562-1629), of Boxted, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

bap. 26 Aug. 1562, 2nd s. of William Poley (d.1587) of Boxted and Alice, da. and h. of Edmund Shaa of Horndon-on-the-Hill, Essex. educ. St. Catherine’s, Camb. 1580, BA 1583; G. Inn 1585; m. 20 Sept. 1597, Anne (bur. 4 Apr. 1658), da. of Sir Robert Jermyn† of Rushbrooke, Suff., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.1 suc. bro. 1594;2 kntd. 27 June 1596.3 d. 5 Aug. 1629.4

Offices Held

Vol. Cadiz 1596.5

J.p. Suff. 1600-d.;6 commr. sewers, Essex and Suff. 1617, Suff. 1626,7 charitable uses 1617;8 dep. lt. Suff. by 1619-at least 1627;9 commr. subsidy, Suff. 1621-2, 1624-5;10 collector (jt.), Privy Seal loan, Suff. 1625-6;11 commr. Forced Loan, Suff. 1626-7;12 piracy 1627, martial law 1628.13


Poley’s ancestor Thomas Poley originally came from Cottered in Hertfordshire. The descendants of Thomas’ first marriage settled at Badley in Suffolk, and one of their number, also called Thomas, sat for Ipswich in 1554. However, Poley himself was descended from Thomas’ second marriage, to the heiress of Boxted manor, which property was situated eight miles from Sudbury in west Suffolk.14

Poley was a younger son, but inherited the family estate in 1594 on the death of his elder brother Sir John, who served under Peregrine, 13th Baron Willoughby in the Low Countries on a mission to the Count of Oldenburg. Sir John died ‘£5,000 in debt for good wine, beer, and cheer’, as Willoughby was informed.15 Poley himself took part in the attack on Cadiz under the 2nd earl of Essex in 1596. He was ordered to guard the town’s treasury, but while he was in charge the doors were broken open and a large part of the treasure disappeared. He nevertheless received a knighthood for his services.16

In 1616 Poley’s daughter, described by Chamberlain as ‘a dainty, fine young lady’, married (Sir) Humphrey May* and the letter-writer thought that her charms were ‘no hindrance to her husband’ in his appointment as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster a couple of years later.17 Poley was first returned for Preston to the third Jacobean Parliament, no doubt at his son-in-law’s nomination. He was named to three legislative committees in 1621, concerning sheriffs’ accounts (15 Mar.), usury (7 May) and an East Anglian estate (1 May), and was added by the grand committee for the courts of justice on 22 Feb. to those Members appointed to receive petitions. In the second sitting he seconded the motion of Thomas Malet on 24 Nov. for passing the bill against informers.18

Poley was again returned for Preston in 1624, but chose instead to sit for Sudbury, where he may also have been nominated by May. The latter had apparently failed in his attempt to influence the 1621 election at Sudbury and perhaps hoped that by sponsoring a local candidate like Poley he could re-establish his right to make nominations without controversy. It is therefore difficult to be sure whether Poley was returned on his own influence or that of the Duchy, particularly as the borough’s other significant patron, Sir Robert Crane*, had been brought up by Poley’s father-in-law, Sir Robert Jermyn. Poley made no recorded speeches in the fourth Jacobean Parliament, but was named to the committee for privileges (23 Feb.) and those for bills to naturalize the Scottish ecclesiastic, Dr. Balcanquhall (4 May), and to sell the estates of Toby Palavicino and the 1st earl of Middlesex (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) for their creditors’ benefit (both on 19 May).19

There is no evidence that Poley sought re-election in 1625. In the aftermath of the first Caroline Parliament he was appointed joint collector of the Privy Seal loan in Suffolk, for which he received his ‘full allowance’, unlike his colleague Sir Henry Glemham.20 The following year he was returned on the Duchy’s influence at Wigan, when he was appointed to consider another East Anglian estate bill (1 Mar.) and a bill for setting prisoners to work and instructing them in religion (8 March). In the supply debate of 23 Mar. he advocated a generous vote of subsidies, telling the House that ‘money [is] the sinews of war’. He also cited the biblical text for the building of the tabernacle, arguing that if they were ‘wise hearted’ they would contribute ‘abundance’ to the king’s coffers. He made no further recorded contribution to the 1626 Parliament.21

Poley was again elected at Sudbury in 1628, when he was named to seven committees, including those to report on the presentment of recusant officeholders by the Commons (24 Apr.), to consider the bill for the liberties of Parliament (28 Apr.), and to examine the complaints against the deputy lieutenants of Cornwall (9 May). He was again an advocate of a vote for generous supply, advocating five subsidies on 4 Apr., and on 19 May he pointed out that the last Parliament would not have agreed to a large grant had it not been convinced of the king’s necessities.22 He left no trace on the records of the second session, and drew up his will, ‘sick in body’ on 4 Aug. 1629. He died the following day and was buried in the chancel of Boxted church as he desired, on 6 August. His grandson, Sir John, sat for Sudbury in 1689.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Howard, Vis. Suff. i. 295-6.
  • 2. HMC Ancaster, 316.
  • 3. S. and E. Usherwood, Counter-Armada, 148.
  • 4. Howard, i. 287.
  • 5. Usherwood, 148.
  • 6. C231/1, f. 91; C66/2527.
  • 7. C181/2, f. 272; 181/3, f. 201v.
  • 8. C93/9/4.
  • 9. Add. 39245, ff. 43, 131.
  • 10. C212/22/20-1, 23; Harl. 305, f. 206v.
  • 11. E401/2586, p. 247
  • 12. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 55.
  • 13. C181/3, ff. 232, 244v.
  • 14. Howard, i. 293; Copinger, Suff. Manors, i. 33; HP Commons, 1509-58, iii. 118-19.
  • 15. HMC Ancaster, 316.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1595-7, p. 280.
  • 17. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 149.
  • 18. CJ, i. 555a, 600b, 611a; CD 1621, vi. 194, 262.
  • 19. CJ, i. 671b, 674a, 705a-b, 783b; R.C.L. Sgroi, ‘Electoral Patronage of the Duchy of Lancaster’, PH, xxvi. 321.
  • 20. SP16/79/90.
  • 21. Procs. 1626, ii. 158, 226. 351.
  • 22. CD 1628, iii. 61, 122, 336, 478; Procs. 1628, vi. 63.
  • 23. PROB 11/156, f. 247v; Howard, i. 271.